“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows,” says Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984. Later in the novel we read, “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.”
In 2020, our American version of the Party—big government, big tech, and corporate media—announced that two plus two makes five. Faced by what they declared to be a deadly virus, and breaking all historical protocols for fighting infectious illness, these entities waged war on facts and truth, closing down American businesses, shuttering schools, locking up churches, forcing people to wear masks and “social distance,” and, in some places, forbidding visits to parks and beaches. Fear was the chief weapon of enforcement, fear of death from the virus, fear of imprisonment and fines from the government, and fear of social banishment.
Those who insisted that two plus two make four, and that the government’s dictates were worthless and the new vaccine dangerous, were erased from social media, threatened with loss of jobs and licenses, and booted out of hospitals and the military.
And as renowned feminist writer Naomi Wolf learned, not even members in good standing with the Party were exempt.
In her newly released book, Facing the Beast: Courage, Faith, and Resistance in a New Dark Age, Wolf writes at length about the ostracism that followed her refusal to be vaccinated and her reporting on the harm done by the vaccine, particularly to women. In what she calls the “Before” world, she was a longtime liberal and feminist icon. Author of eight best-sellers, consultant to political figures like Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and a member in good standing of Manhattan’s in-crowd, Wolf was “privileged to be part of the cultural ‘scene’ made up of influencers on the progressive Left.”
That membership ended abruptly when Wolf questioned the novel mRNA vaccines. Her doubts “called forth waves of bots and trolls, threats and harassment.” As she continued her investigations into the constitutional and medical issues of America’s pandemic policies, Wolf was excluded from parties and gatherings of friends, “deplatformed from Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube,” and mocked in the media as a conspiracy theorist (still so-branded on Wikipedia), an anti-vaxxer, and even a “Trumper.”
Having read Wolf’s 2022 book The Bodies of Others: The New Authoritarians, COVID-19, and the War Against the Human, some of the articles on her Substack, and now Facing the Beast, which includes many of these earlier writings, I applaud this woman’s bravery. Like so many others did, Wolf could have wrapped her doubts about the vaccine in silence and preserved her place in the status quo. Instead, having concluded that two plus two does indeed make four, she stood her ground, spoke the truth, and suffered the consequences.
As Wolf tells us, however, her exile has brought her some unexpected gifts. She writes with glowing admiration of the many good and brave people she has met in the last few years—other dissidents like herself, physicians, scientists, and a few reporters who spoke out and paid the price of scorn and cancellation. She is also thankful for the many “ordinary” Americans she’s met and befriended on this painful odyssey into exile. “It was not until I was ejected from the world of liberal elites and welcomed by the Rest of America,” she writes, “that I realized that there is a massive community of people who accept others based on their character, no matter what they are wearing; who don’t look around the interiors of their friends’ homes, or assess their canapés, with icy judgment.”
Her banishment also roused in her an intense interest in religious faith. She found strength in her Jewish roots and in prayer and has pondered in print the place of God in our lives. In one fascinating chapter of Facing the Beast titled “Have the Ancient Gods Returned?” she wonders whether the West’s turning away from its Judeo-Christian heritage has opened the gates for the re-entry into our world of the bloodthirsty and evil gods of long ago, a change that has created the “metaphysical battle” that “is now the defining Weltanschauung—world spirit—of our time.”
Wolf’s romance with Brian O’Shea—they were married in 2018—adds some sparkle and humor to her story. Facing online threats for her reporting in 2014, and on the recommendation of a friend, she hired O’Shea, a U.S. Army veteran and private investigator, as a bodyguard. Despite their radically different backgrounds, they then began dating—a real-life version of the movie The Bodyguard. Particularly interesting is that Brian taught Wolf how to use firearms, thereby also creating an ardent defender of the Second Amendment.
Chapter 18, “Dear Conservatives, I Apologize,” is unusual in that Wolf asks forgiveness from conservatives for her believing so much misinformation about them that came via the media and the government. The contrast between Wolf’s mea culpa and the arrogant absence of any apology from our government for its bumbling, disastrous, and often deceptive policies of the last decade is glaring.
So, bravo for Naomi Wolf. Her book, and the woman herself, are testaments to truth standing against madness and lies. For those of us who know that two and two make four, it’s a heartening reminder of why we must continue to speak the truth.
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